My brother Joe, a car salesperson for more than 45 years, wore a moustache through most of the ’70s and ’80s. Back then, almost every car salesperson sported a moustache, and yes, almost all car salespeople were men.
Being more than 11 years younger than my brother, I tried to grow my own moustache in high school. In fact, there is a photo in my senior yearbook of me standing in the hallway, proud of my attempt to be as cool as Joe. The photo is in black and white. But that is not the reason why you can’t see my facial hair. I just couldn’t grow a moustache back then.
I don’t recollect exactly when Joe shaved off the ’stache for good, but I do remember thinking it had to be the end of an era. And it certainly was. Even Magnum P.I., featuring Tom Selleck’s glorious moustache as the main character, didn’t make it into the ’90s.
Sure, some continued to cultivate the hairy upper lip after the ’80s, but for the most part they were accused of being anachronistic, or just blissfully unaware. Then came 2003, when, during a drinking session, Australians Travis Garone and Luke Slattery dreamed up the idea to grow moustaches, to raise funds for men’s health issues. The idea caught on, they added the ‘Mo’ to the beginning of the month, and Movember was born.
According to Sam Wilson, Movember Canada Development Coordinator, men’s health is in crisis across the globe. The charity’s efforts are directed to four main areas: mental health, suicide prevention, prostate cancer and testicular cancer. Wilson points out that men die on average six years younger than women, and that three out of every four suicides are by males. In addition, one in nine men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, which tends to hit older men, while those aged 15 to 34 are at the highest risk for testicular cancer.
“What Movember is all about,” explains Wilson, “is we want men to be open about what is happening with their physical bodies, and mentally as well. There’s no stigma around that. We know that just talking about the causes and what’s going on in our daily lives can be lifesaving.”
“We want men to be going to the doctor,” he continues, “having that conversation about PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) testing as early as possible. We want men to know that testicular cancer is one of the only cancers that you can check for yourself. And the same with mental health and suicide prevention. We know that social connectivity is a huge piece of that. It’s all about talking about what’s going on, and checking in with friends and family.”
Worldwide since 2003, the Movember Foundation boasts more than six million participants, called Mo Bros and Mo Sisters (yes, women participate too, without the moustache), from 20 countries.
Movember is in its 14th year in Canada. To date, funds raised in this country have assisted more than 300 programs geared toward men’s health. In 2019, the Canadian arm raised more than $20.8 million.
Those funds go to endeavours such as the GAP5 Testicular Cancer Translational Research Project, and clinical research studies that aim to improve treatment outcomes for men diagnosed with prostate cancer. They also help fund the Men’s Depression & Suicide Network, as well as Kid’s Help Phone.
These days, I am able to “Grow a Mo”. However, like back in high school in 1981, you may have to squint a bit to see it. But that’s because there’s a bit more salt than there is pepper in my facial hair now. And rest assured, my brother Joe still laughs at my current attempt.
So I’ve spent the first three weeks of the month cultivating my own moustache, though I am a bit miffed that most don’t see my efforts behind my mask. More importantly, I am raising funds for a cause I believe in. I know there are other charities and causes that are also deserving of financial support. And I do continue to support them.
But I have watched helplessly as friends have battled prostate cancer, and my own father had prostate issues as well. In addition, as a high school teacher for more than 28 years, I have increasingly seen many young men suffering from mental health problems. We are breaking down the stigma that historically kept these young men from talking about their issues. But it takes time. And it’s important that men like my own 20-year-old son face a world where they don’t have to hide their feelings, or be ashamed to talk about their health issues.
If you can, please help me reach my goal of raising $1,000 this month by visiting my “Mo Space” at https://movember.com/m/14350681?mc=1.
Any little bit helps.